Of course, the sushi train was concocted in Japan. In a country where tradition and technology are constantly rubbing up against one another, why would they physically walk plates from the kitchen, when they could build a little conveyor belt around the restaurant and have food whizzing past the customers instead?
It’s a kooky idea, but like a lot of things in Japan, it works perfectly. And over time the rest of the world has caught on.
While they’ve been making sushi in Japan for over 1,200 years, the original version wasn’t anything like the western dishes we know today. Old school sushi was basically just fish in sour, fermented rice. Definitely nothing deep fried, or any mini-locomotives involved.
Shiraishi got the idea after watching bottles of beer moving down a conveyer belt at the Asahi brewery.
It wasn’t until 1958 that a guy named Yoshiaki Shiraishi started the first sushi train. Struggling to find staff, and manage a restaurant by himself, Shiraishi got the idea of automating parts of his business after watching bottles of beer moving down a conveyer belt at the Asahi brewery.
The concept boomed all over Japan, and the world, for a bunch of reasons.
Beyond the novelty factor, sushi trains are popular with kids, business people short on time, mindful folk who don’t like wasting food, and tourists with no Japanese language skills, who are unable to order from a menu, but who can easily grab a plate from in front of their face.
This is Japan though, so of course there are purists who would never step foot inside such an establishment. For this crowd, the ultimate meal is made by Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master, and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a three-star Michelin restaurant.
Not a spot for the budget conscious, if you book far enough ahead, Ono will serve you a tasting menu of roughly 20 plates of sushi for a cost of around AUD$400.